The Zone of Death

By Maya Mellberg

February 19, 2021

The purge, 24 hours of pure freedom, the dystopian fictional story that could only exist in a horror film; but what if it existed in America? Known as the Death Zone, this portion of Yellowstone National Park is theoretically lawless. 

The 50 square miles of Yellowstone National Park in Idaho was the topic of interest in Michigan State Law Professor Brian C. Kalt’s essay, “The Perfect Crime”. Published in 2005, it revealed his discovery of the constitutional loophole that would make this portion of America a criminal’s heaven. 

While researching the technicalities of the sixth amendment, Kalt attempted to find a location that did not have enough eligible citizens to form a jury. To try someone for a federal crime, the jury would need to consist of people from the same district and state where the crime took place. Kalt was shocked to find that such a place existed, the Idaho portion of Yellowstone National Park fits perfectly. This part of Yellowstone is so remote (there are no inhabitants or courthouses) that it would be impossible to form a jury, no matter the crime. 

 Once Kalt discovered this Death Zone, he focused his essay on fixing the loophole. One  would assume a horrifying discovery like Kalt’s would draw the government’s attention, but shockingly it was ignored. 

In 2007 another piece was published to help gain attention from lawmakers, author C.J Box wrote Free Fire, a novel that featured the Death Zone. This novel sparked the interest of Mike Enzi, a senator in Wyoming who attempted to convince congress to discuss it, but the issue was left unresolved.

One would expect such an area to have skyrocketing crime rates because of this loophole. Shockingly the only known crime to have been committed was the illegal killing of an elk. Lawmakers have failed to address this issue and this section of Yellowstone remains “lawless”. Because of the government’s neglect on this issue, it continues to remain the Death Zone, with the inability to try someone in front of a jury these 50 square miles are America’s own patch of the purge.

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